Digital Media Law

SAG-AFTRA Engages Jonathan Handel as Outside Special Counsel

Digital Media Law

Leaves The Hollywood Reporter; will continue to practice entertainment/tech law; writes at LOS ANGELES (September 8, 2020) – SAG-AFTRA has engaged entertainment/technology attorney and journalist Jonathan Handel as an outside Special Counsel to the union, effective Sept.


How Do We Know Driverless Cars Are Safe? Google Says ‘Trust Us’

Digital Media Law

Driverless cars are on the road now – Google’s fleet has logged about 700,000 miles of autonomous driving – and the California DMV will be issuing regulations in a matter of weeks allowing self-driving cars to be sold to the public, possibly setting the regulatory pattern for the rest of the country ( video ). Google has predicted 2017 for first commercial availability, while Nissan and Mercedes say it will be 2020.

2030 May Be The Year They’ll Take Your Driver's License Away

Digital Media Law

I was stuck in traffic yesterday, which I didn’t really mind because I have a fun little yellow convertible, and I was thinking about Uber ($17 billion! that’s the company’s valuation, not the price of a ride) and Google’s driverless cars (development cost unknown), and I decided it was time to connect the dots: once a car learns to drive, there’s no need to own it and there’s no need for a driver.

VFX Town Hall Meeting Urges Trade Association and Union

Digital Media Law

Normal. false. false. false. However, panelists also acknowledged the difficulty of achieving either goal. Pi Day – a multi-city international meeting of VFX artists – took place Thursday evening amid rising concern about the state of the industry. VFX vet Scott Ross and others outlined a plan that involves the formation of a VFX union for VFX artists and of a trade association for visual effects facilities, all aimed at addressing the troubled VFX business model.

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Review: NudeAudio Super-M and aiia SSSSSpeaker on Kickstarter

Digital Media Law

Two new Bluetooth speakers offer a great reason to jet on over to Kickstarter. The NudeAudio Super-M ($99, campaign ending on July 15) offers great sound in a package thin enough to slip in a back jeans pocket. During my recent visit to the company’s South of Market offices, a head-to-head comparison showed that the unit delivered deeper bass and higher volumes without loss of fidelity than the Jambox Mini and was more rugged.

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Aereo to Face Uphill Battle in Supreme Court Next Week, Experts Say (analysis)

Digital Media Law

Next week’s Supreme Court argument will be difficult for cable-competitor Aereo, legal experts agree, as the company faces off against not just broadcasters but also the influential U.S. Solicitor General’s office and the Copyright Office. While it will be a tough fight for the company, the case is so complex and the copyright and communications statutes so intricate that one advocate said the decision could end up as lopsided as 7-1 – in either direction.

It’s a Play! It’s Live Internet TV! It’s Both, and it Opens in Los Angeles on Friday

Digital Media Law

‘The Noir Series’ harkens back to the days of live TV but presents a thoroughly modern challenge to entertainment unions Bad Medicine,'' a segment from ''The Noir Series,'' features a chain-smoking doctor and two disconcerting nurses. Courtesy Heretick Theatre Lab.

New Website --

Digital Media Law

My new website is up at It tells everything you always wanted to know (and more!) about my background and entertainment/technology law practice. Give it a look! Check out “The New Zealand Hobbit Crisis,” available on Amazon in paperback, Kindle and audiobook. Visit my website ( ), follow me on Twitter or friend me on Facebook or LinkedIn. If you work in tech, take a look at my book How to Write LOIs and Term Sheets

How Talent Loses if Aereo Wins

Digital Media Law

Follow the money and discover an unstated reason the Hollywood unions weighed in with briefs opposing the new service. Several weeks ago, Fox, PBS and several other companies were hit with a 2-1 federal court of appeals ruling rebuffing their attempt to shut down Aereo, a new service backed by Barry Diller.


Pilots Overwhelmingly AFTRA Again

Digital Media Law

About 60 pilots for scripted network primetime programs will be shot under AFTRA contracts this year, while few – or perhaps none – will be produced under SAG jurisdiction, according to sources close to the two unions, who spoke on condition of anonymity. This continues a trend that began last year, when roughly 90% of pilots (and 83% of pilot pickups ) went AFTRA.


Actors Union SAG-AFTRA and Industry Postpone Commercials Negotiations

Digital Media Law

SAG-AFTRA and the advertising industry have agreed to postpone their previously-scheduled early negotiations of the union’s commercials agreement, the union announced Saturday. The existing agreement remains in place through March 31, 2013. The parties need more time, said the union, to address “data challenges” regarding a study that may result in a revamp of the commercials residuals system, referred to as Gross Ratings Points (GRP).


'Citizenfour' Review: Quiet Moments in a Hong Kong Hotel Room as Edward Snowden, Journalists Fight to Save Democracy

Digital Media Law

Hong Kong has been ground zero this year in the fight for freedom, with students and Occupy leaders battling police for control of the streets in a desperate campaign to maintain the Chinese territory’s relative autonomy from erosion by the central Beijing government. But the city hosted much quieter freedom fighters a year earlier, not on the streets but in the confines of an international hotel room.

Rosenberg v. SAG Lawsuit Dismissed

Digital Media Law

The lawsuit filed 1-1/2 years ago by SAG's then-president Alan Rosenberg against his own union has finally been dismissed, according to court records and a source with knowledge of the matter. The dismissal actually came several weeks ago, but appears not to have previously been reported.

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Musicians Union Pickets Marvel Over Runaway ‘Avengers’ Score

Digital Media Law

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Joan Rivers Faces Potential Fine, Expulsion in WGA East Trial (Analysis)

Digital Media Law

Normal. false. false. false. The penalties could be severe – but Rivers may have some unexpected defenses. With the WGA East sending Joan Rivers off to a trial board for alleged violations related to Fashion Police, the star will be facing what’s likely to be a tough tribunal – and a fine that could be as high as all the money she’s made on the hit show in the last year, plus expulsion from the union. What’s more, she may have to face her accusers without an attorney present.

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New book - Entertainment Labor: An Interdisciplinary Bibliography

Digital Media Law

A must-have for academics, union staff and attorneys working in entertainment labor, ENTERTAINMENT LABOR: An Interdisciplinary Bibliography is a 345 page annotated bibliography of over 1,500 books, articles, dissertations, legal cases and other resources dealing with entertainment unions and guilds and various other aspects of entertainment labor. The book is the product of hundreds of hours of research and of compilation of search results from almost twenty databases.

Lucasfilm Faces New Accusation of Pregnancy Discrimination

Digital Media Law

Normal. false. false. false. VFX artist Luis Pages says Lucasfilm Singapore promised inaccurately that he’d have broad medical insurance if he relocated to Singapore for a job with the company – but then fired him without explanation after his wife’s pregnancy turned medically difficult, and withheld salary. “I I think they fired me because of my wife's pregnancy and because of how upset sending her away made me and my co workers feel,” Pages told The Hollywood Reporter.

Teamsters, studios fail to break stalemate

Digital Media Law

Talks between the studios and Hollywood Teamsters Local 399 ended late Friday night with no movement and no new negotiating sessions scheduled. The union meets in Burbank early Sunday morning, where the leadership is expected to seek – and obtain – a strike authorization vote from members. That authorization would, in turn, allow union leaders to call a strike at any time after the July 31 expiration of their contract with the studios and producers.

Canadian Talent Consultant Charged in Alleged Actor Visa Scam

Digital Media Law

Normal. false. false. false. Actor Andrew Boryski was charged with multiple criminal counts for cheating aspiring actors out of thousands of dollars in an immigration visa scam, the Los Angeles City Attorney’s office said Thursday in a press release. Normal. false. false. false. Boryski is charged with 32 counts; “this suspect, who’s an aspiring actor himself, has landed a role in a real life crime drama” says a federal agent. Normal. false. false. false.

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The Anti-SAG Lawsuit That Won't Quite Die

Digital Media Law

Remember the lawsuit filed by then-SAG president Alan Rosenberg, 1st VP Anne-Marie-Johnson and board members Diane Ladd and Kent McCord against their own Guild? That's the suit that got dismissed for the umpteenth time last month. Turns out that there's some unfinished business. SAG's lawyers filed a motion for court costs, in the amount of $834.44. If the figure sounds low, remember that that's just filing fees and the like; it's basically impossible to obtain an award of attorney's fees.

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Live on Larry Mantle re SAG-AFTRA Merger

Digital Media Law

I'll be live on Larry Mantle ( [link] ) this morning at about 11:05 a.m. PT for a 14 minute segment on SAG-AFTRA merger. Tune in (is that still the verb?) if you have a chance. It'll probably be available archived as well. _. Check out my new book “Hollywood on Strike!,” available on Amazon (also in a Kindle edition). Subscribe to my blog ( ) for more about entertainment law and digital media law. Check out my residuals chart there too.


Homeless Military Widow: “My heart is sad for my teenager”

Digital Media Law

Cindy Kureth just wants a job and a place to call home. She had both not long ago, but she got laid off, unemployment ran out, and the mortgage company took her home. Now all the Richmond, Virginia mother has is a motel room for herself and her 16-year old son. That, and memories of her husband, former Army Major Elwood Kureth, Jr., who died eleven years ago, when his son was 5. He and Cindy had been married for nineteen years.

'Hobbit' Affair Still Rankles NZ Unions

Digital Media Law

Normal. false. false. false. As fans of The Hobbit scanned the red carpet at the film’s premiere in Wellington last night, some New Zealand activists are still bitter about the outcome of a failed unionization attempt in 2010, even as NZ Actors Equity is finally making progress in negotiations with the country’s producers association. Meanwhile, the government continues to resist publicly disclosing a key legal report, despite having apparently provided copies to Warner Bros.

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Exclusive: WGA East and LA County AFL-CIO Endorse Occupy Wall Steet / Occupy LA

Digital Media Law

In exclusive statements to the Hollywood Reporter, the Writers Guild of America, East and the LA County Federation of Labor have endorsed the Occupy protests in NY, LA and elsewhere. The WGA East slammed a “system that has diverted capital (to) a tiny handful of people,” while the LA County Fed called out "corporate bullies, banks and investment firms.". Details: The Hollywood Reporter -- LA County Fed story ; WGA East story. _. Check out my new book “Hollywood on Strike!,”

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Silly Lawsuit Against SAG Dismissed; and More

Digital Media Law

Remember the lawsuit that former SAG president Alan Rosenberg and three other Membership First members (1st VP Anne-Marie Johnson and board members Diane Ladd and Kent McCord) filed against their own union? You may have blissfully forgotten this misbegotten legal action, filed a year and a half ago (!), but the courts haven’t. This is the lawsuit that attempted to reinstate former SAG National Executive Director Doug Allen and undo ratification of the SAG-AMPTP collective bargaining agreement.

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Basic Cable Clarification & Details

Digital Media Law

In yesterday’s post regarding the schedule for this cycle’s negotiations, I said that SAG and AFTRA would be jointly negotiating basic cable starting on November 7. Sources close to AFTRA and SAG have corrected me on this—and provided more details. My take on this was based on a misreading of a SAG press release from 11 days ago.

new book - The New Zealand Hobbit Crisis

Digital Media Law

My new book, The New Zealand Hobbit Crisis, is out on Amazon. Normal. false. false. false. in paper ( [link] SiHUX2) and Kindle ( [link] Check it out. Here's the description: Normal. false. false. false.

Transportation strike could paralyze Hollywood

Digital Media Law

Believe it or not, Hollywood may be headed for another work stoppage in just two weeks. In 2007-2008, the Writers Guild struck, shuttering television and film production. In 2008-2009, a Screen Actors Guild stalemate lingered for almost a year, shutting down primarily film production. This time, the Hollywood Teamsters may strike - and that could immediately halt television and film production. For details, see my exclusive Hollywood Reporter story.

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Hollywood Labor: The Tyranny of Time

Digital Media Law

One key to understanding Hollywood labor is a tool that was invented thousands of years ago: the calendar. That much became clear in the last round of major negotiations, which lasted from 2007 to 2009, and featured a writers strike and a SAG stalemate. I covered those events as they occurred, and they’re also the topic of my forthcoming book, “Hollywood on Strike!,” which is due out next month.

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Hollywood Sign Owner Cries Foul Over Ad Agency 'Infringement'

Digital Media Law

11.9999. Normal. false. false. false. Visit the website for The Brooklyn Brothers, a New York ad agency, and you’ll find a splash page. announcing their new Hollywood venture, called BB Hollywood. It’s a snazzy looking page – a photo of the Hollywood sign with “BB” photoshopped in, to form “BBHOLLYWOOD” in the iconic white staggered, blocky typeface. But it turns out the splash page has already made more of a splash in Hollywood than the agency intended.

AFTRA Moves Closer to Merger With SAG

Digital Media Law

For the first time, the union’s national board votes on the current merger attempt, passing a key resolution “overwhelmingly”; the measure includes a statement that AFTRA leadership is “encouraged by the renewed interest expressed by SAG’s current leadership.”. Details: The Hollywood Reporter. _. Watch for my new book “Hollywood on Strike!,” due out next month. Subscribe to my blog ( ) for more about entertainment law and digital media law. Check out my residuals chart there too.


SAG/AFTRA Members: Will your dues go up or down? Now you can tell.

Digital Media Law

There's been a lot of discussion about how dues will change if SAG and AFTRA merge, but no one's made it easy for you to know exactly what will happen to your own. For a detailed breakdown -- and a graph that encompasses earnings from $0 to $250K, see The Hollywood Reporter. Whether you're SAG-only or a dual cardholder (or if you're AFTRA-only or even a broadcaster), the graph will show you exactly what will happen to your dues if merger passes. _. Check out my new book “Hollywood on Strike!,”


Breakthrough in Teamsters talks; deal ratified

Digital Media Law

In a surprising development, Hollywood Teamsters leaders at a standing room only membership meeting this morning asked the membership to ratify a 2 year contract proposed by the studios. The membership then voted 97.3% to 2.7% to ratify, ending the possibility of a strike that could have shuttered much film and television production.

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Movie Academy Journeys to Mars and (Far) Beyond at Sold-Out Event

Digital Media Law

“What’s anything without a trip to Mars?,” asked NASA’s Eric De Jong Tuesday night on stage at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. No one in the audience seemed inclined to disagree, but many no doubt felt “Why stop at Mars?” The panelists were happy to oblige, taking the audience to the limits of the observable Universe.

Unions Investigating 'Liz & Dick' after Lindsay Lohan, Crew Allegedly Overworked

Digital Media Law

Two prominent Hollywood unions are investigating the Lifetime movie Liz & Dick, The HollywoodReporter (exclusive) has learned, with the moves coming in the wake of reports over the weekend that star Lindsay Lohan suffered from “exhaustion and dehydration” from overwork and that two crew members went to the hospital for the same reason. The producer of the biopic about Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton denies any violations or knowledge of union inquiries.

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How to Settle the Viacom iPad Lawsuits Now

Digital Media Law

Back in April, Viacom and Time Warner Cable sued each other; then last month Viacom sued Cablevision. Interestingly, that came just a day after Viacom and TWC filed a standstill agreement so that they could negotiate without the pressure of ongoing court deadlines. In both sets of suits, the issue is the same: under license and distribution agreements, can cable companies allow their customers to add another screen to their home viewing options: an iPad?

Snowe Rains on Republicans' Parade

Digital Media Law

Olympia Snowe, a moderate Republican who's represented Maine in the Senate since 1994, announced today that she won't seek reelection in November, citing polarization in Washington as the reason. Her retirement, coming from a state where Democrats hold a registration edge, is a blow to the GOP and puts the seat in play. What does this have to do with the subject of this blog? Nothing, but when you think up a headline too good to be true, you have to go with it.

IATSE and Teamsters Reach Mutual Assistance Pact

Digital Media Law

The International Brotherhood of Teamsters and the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees have entered into an agreement to work together toward common goals. The move represents a major change from the previously frosty relationship between the two unions. The pact sets out how the unions will address organizing efforts, deal with jurisdictional issues and establishes new lines of communication aimed at strengthening the relationship.


A “New” Entertainment Union - And a Possible Name

Digital Media Law

AFTRA is interested in merger with the Screen Actors Guild, but not if the effort is going to fail again. So we learn from an article appearing in the just-mailed Spring 2010 issue of AFTRA Magazine. The union makes clear that any such effort will encompass all of its members, and emphasizes that the goal is “creating one media and entertainment union for all actors, performers and broadcast journalists.”

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The Laurel Canyon Goats are Leaving!

Digital Media Law

There comes a point in everyone’s life when it’s time to gather one’s herd and leave the hustle and bustle of the big city. For Elaine and Michael Fresco, that time is now. And although the herd in question numbers only two, they’re much beloved – and they’re goats. Yes, Laurel Canyon, long a home to musicians and other entertainment industry folk, is also the home of two Mini Mancha dairy goats, Snowflake and Pumpkin. But not for long. “I I like Laurel Canyon,” says Elaine, “but not LA.”

AFTRA, Networks Reach New Three Year Deal

Digital Media Law

AFTRA and the television networks reached agreement on a new three-year contract today, with the new pact featuring now-standard 2% annual wage increases and an unusually large 1% increase in employer contributions to health and retirement. Notably, the union achieved the H&R increase without employers taking a bite out of the annual wage increase.


Health and Retirement are the Hangup in AFTRA Netcode Negotiations (Exclusive)

Digital Media Law

AFTRA’s negotiations with the networks and television producers resume this week and the big issue, according to a source close to the process, is the same one that’s bedeviled Hollywood labor for the past several years: health and retirement. Negotiations began November 7 under a press blackout, but haven’t produced a deal yet.


Agenda for the SAG-AFTRA Merger Effort

Digital Media Law

There's a strong case for merging SAG and AFTRA but there are numerous hurdles to overcome as well. What are some of the key issues? See my piece in The Hollywood Reporter for details. _. Check out my new book “Hollywood on Strike!,” available at (use limited-time code JL886NCV for 20% off) and due out on Amazon this month. Subscribe to my blog ( ) for more about entertainment law and digital media law. Check out my residuals chart there too.